Floors and Ceilings, VI

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! If you’re reading this post “live,” I’m probably on a brief trip to the nearest Apple Store to see about a battery-charging issue with my favorite-and-only daughter’s iPod. As I made my appointment (so painlessly! so quickly!) online yesterday, I was reminded of a lot of things I’ve read recently about enduringly great companies and the unique ways they find to retain and energize their customers. Even if, by some chance, the repair is more expensive than the simple battery replacement we expect, I’ll probably leave the store impressed and pleased with the service and support. In the same way, I look forward to seeing the genuinely happy server at a local restaurant who always wishes me a blessed day. It’s so important for businesses – and all other organizations that deal with people, including schools – to make customers feel valued and appreciated.

And yet so many organizations don’t even bother! We recently had an issue with our Internet service; it suddenly disappeared one evening last week, and no amount of restarting the modem would help. Next morning, it equally mysteriously had reappeared, and everything was fine. During the outage, I tried to call the company and see what was going on; after 15-20 minutes on hold each time, I had to do other things. Evidently they knew about the problem and were working on it – but they never told me. Earlier this year, I’d gone through a similar issue involving bad service by a professional firm I had used for years; that one seems to have ended much more happily, but it required a direct appeal to one of the managing partners, an appeal that many people probably wouldn’t have bothered to make.

And speaking of value … check out this remarkable blog post at Education Week, by a master music teacher in Michigan! And check out this blog from Edutopia for some low-cost suggestions to add technology to your classroom. (In all fairness to her, I must say that my face-to-face school district is utterly opposed to using donated computers in class, for reasons of security, but they do a great job of distributing donated computers to students who need one, but don’t have one at home.)

As the Joyful Learning Community of the Tres Columnae Project continues to grow, I want to make sure that we preserve that feeling of community – that sense that each member is important, valuable, even precious. We’ve been thinking about ways to enhance our community, and someone suggested a more private online space where Tres Columnae subscribers and supporters could interact with each other. Suggestions included

  • a private Ning, now that affordable, ad-free ones are available;
  • a Yahoo! group like the one that hosts Latin-BestPractices;
  • a special forum on the Version Alpha Wiki site, which would migrate over to Version Beta when that’s ready in a few weeks.

What would work best for you?

As I was writing yesterday’s post, I re-read a number of things I’ve written, here and elsewhere, about the uses and abuses of translation in our field. That got me thinking about the different things that the word “translation” can mean. Perhaps some of the conflicts about the practice of translation are actually conflicts (or disagreements) about the semantics – different, but unresolved, definitions of what the word “translation” means. As I think of my own life as a learner and teacher of Latin, I realize it’s meant very different things at different times:

  1. When I was a beginning student, it meant “a hand-written assignment in which I am to restate a Latin passage in something that approximates English, with “more literal” approximations in parentheses.”
  2. When I was an undergraduate, it meant “an oral restatement in English, for which you prepare by repeated reading of the Latin and by writing down dictionary listings of unknown words.”
  3. When I started teaching, it meant “I will never, ever have my students think or do #1, but we might do something like #2 chorally or individually.”
  4. For TPRS teachers, as David noted in the Latin-BestPractices post I referred to yesterday, it means “single-word L1 definitions of new L2 terms” and “choral L1 restatements of L2 passages that have been repeatedly heard or read.”
  5. On the AP® Examinations, it means “a rather artificial and formulaic use of English words that attempts to restate not only the thoughts, but the actual syntax of a Latin passage, scored by phrase groupings, which is an excellent predictor of students’ overall success on the exam.”

You can see why people fight about “translation!” There’s an obvious common core (restating things from one language in another language), but beyond that, the term can have vastly different meanings. When we don’t take time to clarify – or to try to understand how others are using the term – we open ourselves up to all kinds of unnecessary conflicts.

Speaking of unnecessary conflicts, poor Caelius and Vipsania will end up in an unfortunate one with Frontō, the architectus they’ve hired to design and supervise the renovation of their vīlla in Lectiō XXI. You probably saw that coming in yesterday’s featured story! For one thing, Caelius and Vipsania have agreed (or at least he’s decided to accept her complaints) about certain features of the house:

nōnne vīlis et parva est ista vīlla? nōnne pauca cubicula? nōnne antīquae turpēsque pictūrae, quās pictor patrī meō in mūrīs multōs ante annōs pīnxit?

But they haven’t necessarily agreed on how to correct the problem features. How pretiōsa et magna does the house need to be? quanta cubicula would be enough? Obviously they want novae et pulchrae pictūrae, and novae won’t be hard, but what exactly constitutes pulchrae in this context? Given their rather unsuccessful child-rearing and their disagreements about servī et ancillae, Caelius and Vipsania aren’t very likely to take the time and effort to communicate successfully with Frontō … and, as we’ll see, he might not be all that eager to listen in any case. See what you think of today’s featured story, which you can now find here on the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’d like:

Caelius cum architectō Frontōne per tōtam vīllam ambulat. ātrium, cubicula, tablīnum, triclīnium architectō ostendit. Frontō attonitus vīllam īnspicit. “sine dubiō,” sēcum colloquitur, “iste Caelius avārissimus est! quis enim vīllam tam sordidam, tam parvam, tam antīquam tenēre vult? sine dubiō istae pictūrae sunt centum annōrum!” Frontō manūs Caeliō prēnsat et, “mī domine, mī amīce,” inquit, “quam fortūnātus es, quod mē nunc iam vocās! sine dubiō vīlla tua nōn modo sordida et parva, sed perīculōsa est! nōnne enim rīma per tōtum mūrum prōcēdit? nōnne, cum pluit, aqua per tegulās usque ad pavimentum cadit? nōnne tōta vīlla in cumulum dēcidere potest?”

Caelius attonitus et perterritus, “heus!” exclāmat, “sine dubiō vīlla antīqua est … sed perīculōsa? nōnne iussū avī meī servī hanc vīllam exstrūxērunt. perīculōsa? in cumulum lāpsūra? heu! quid facere dēbeō?”

Frontō sēcum rīdet. tandem “mī Caelī,” respondet, “cōnfīde mihi! vīllam tuam renovāre et reficere possum. dea Fortūna tibi favet, quod redēmptōrem perītissimum, quī vīllās tālēs saepe reficit, bene nōvī. ille redēmptor, M. Iūlius Frontō nōmine, frāter meus ipse est! tibi vīllam reficere perītissimē et celerrimē potest. nōlī tē vexāre; mihi ad urbem reveniendum est frātrem meum cōnsultum. paucīs diēbus reventum nostrum exspectā!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you’ve ever embarked on a home-renovation project, you know how important it is to choose a good, ethical contractor. What do you think about Fronto? Would you hire him?
  • Whether you’d hire Fronto or not, what do you think of Caelius’ response? After all, he has been living in the house for quite some time; you’d think he would have noticed serious structural flaws if they were really there!
  • What do you think of Fronto’s, um, “unbiased” recommendation of his frāter the redēmptor?
  • And on another level, what do you think of the use of various verb tenses in this story?

Tune in on Monday, when we’ll meet Fronto’s frāter and discover a few things about the relationship between these two. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 14, 2010 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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New Beginnings, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, one possible use for the Tres Columnae Project materials is as a self-paced review for students returning to Latin. Of course, we’d be thrilled if you also decided to use the materials with your Latin I students, and we’d be ecstatic if you decided to use them in place of a traditional textbook. But for many teachers and students in Latin II and above, the beginning of the year seems to hold a special dread. You know you need to do some sort of review before jumping into new material, but what’s the best way?

  • Some teachers go through an undifferentiated and lengthy process of reteaching everything (or “everything important”) from Latin I. Depending on how you do this, and how much mastery of “old stuff” you want from your students, this can take weeks or months! Of course, by the end, many students will be utterly bored and others will still be completely lost … but you, the teacher, can pat yourself on the back because you “did a thorough review.” I have often been that teacher! 🙂
  • Other teachers attempt to diagnose their students’ areas of strength and weakness, then devise review activities that meet those needs. I’ve been that teacher as well! The problem, of course, is devising the activities and finding the materials. You don’t want to do exactly the same work that the students did in Latin I, but you may not have anything else to use. And you can’t very well re-issue the Latin I textbooks; after all, the current Latin I students are using those!
  • Still other teachers jump into new material right away and pause, as needed, to review things that turn out to be problematic for their students. I don’t think I’ve ever been that teacher :-), but I admire their bravery. The problem with this approach, for me at least, is that I don’t like unpleasant surprises. I would much rather find out in advance that 65% of my class need to review a particular grammatical feature; that way, I can plan ahead and provide them with what they need. An impromptu adjustment in midstream of a lesson can be exciting, but it can quickly deteriorate into “I shall lecture while you take notes, then yell at you because you can’t apply the information from the notes.” I prefer a world with less yelling; it’s much less stressful for everyone concerned! 🙂

In place of these common options, I think the Tres Columnae materials, especially the ones that we’ve made available for Lectiōnēs I-XX on the Version Alpha Wiki site, can provide a really positive alternative. Of course, we’d love for you to choose a paid subscription for your students (those will be available by the end of this month), but we think that even the free materials would provide your upper-level students with an enjoyable, engaging, and different approach to review. Here’s one possible pathway through the materials:

  1. Obviously, if they’ve retained any vocabulary or reading strategies, Latin II students would find the fabellae and fābulae of Lectiōnēs I-II supremely easy to read. That effortless direct comprehension is a big boost in confidence! If you want to check their comprehension, you might use some of the exercises in the Instructure Public Demo course; students can’t keep a permanent record of their scores in the demo, of course, but they can print out or save their results for you to look at.
  2. Depending on the textbook and pacing, your students might not have been exposed to the genitive case in Latin I, so they’d run into “something new” ­– but something easy to understand, and something that hooks a lot of other things together for them – early on. We’ll have a lot of genitive exercises (and even some, designed for my own students, that review other cases) as early as Lectiō II in the “real” exercises and quizzes. You might want to see about subscriptions for your classes, but you’re certainly welcome to make up your own “stuff” for use with your students.
  3. Lectiōnēs I-XX are, of course, written in the present tense. They introduce passive, deponent, and subjunctive forms along the way, so there might be something new for your students. If you want to review other tenses, you might ask your students to rewrite a story in the tense (or tenses) that made the most sense; they could even compare versions and discuss different choices they had made. We’d love for you to Submit these to the project, of course, but you could also keep them and use them just with your own classes if that made more sense to you.
  4. Once you finished the formal review process, you might have your students use the Tres Columnae stories for extensive-reading practice. We’ll provide comprehension exercises for our subscribers, of course, but you could certainly make up your own … or just have your students make summaries of your own design if you want an “accountability” check.
  5. Along the way, you might have students participate in a Virtual Seminar or two that seemed interesting. If you don’t want to subscribe, you might just share the opening question with them (those will be freely visible to everybody) and have them respond to you, or to each other, by email.

In any case, we think you’ll end up with a much more engaging, thoughtful, and enjoyable review for your upper-level Latin students, and with a lot less time, effort, and angst on your part.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What have you typically done for review with your Latin II students?
  • Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the results?
  • What do you think of this possible way to incorporate Tres Columnae materials in a review for upper-level students?
  • Can you see other, different, better ways to use Tres Columnae materials with an upper-level class?
  • We think it would be especially helpful to use these materials with a combined class; in fact, my fall-semester Latin II-and-III class last year was a big inspiration for me in that regard. What do you think about that?

Tune in next time, when we’ll explore your responses and look at ways to use the Tres Columnae materials with a beginning class. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on August 5, 2010 at 1:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Quartus infans, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Yesterday was an exciting day for the Tres Columnae Project, and today looks like it will be full of adventures, too. In yesterday’s post, I mentioned the recent thread on the Oerberg listserv about passive verbs, in which this blog post of mine from February was mentioned very favorably. That led to an interesting exchange about the mechanics of teaching such structures. Two items, in particular, stood out for me:

  1. Rebecca, our regular reader who started the exchange, mentioned that it helps her to think about how a construction (especially an impersonal one) might be “literally” expressed in English – not as an end in itself, but as a gateway to understanding the differences between the Latin and English structures.
  2. One teacher who responded mentioned that his students’ eyes glaze over when he tells them about such things. He also mentioned that his students understand who does the action and who is affected by it in both passive and active sentences, but they have trouble transforming sentences from active to passive – to change his metaphor just a bit, they seem to get lost in a jungle of endings. He wondered if this was a common problem.

Of course, translation is such a hot-button issue for so many Latin teachers! And I’m sure we all struggle with students who get lost in that metaphorical jungle. For those of you lectōrēs fidēlissimī who don’t subscribe to the Oerberg listserv, here’s a portion of what I said… and I invite you to join in, especially if you disagree!

As for “translation of a structure,” for want of a better term, for it to be most successful, I think the key is that it has to be done by the learner, not by the teacher! Now, obviously, as a teacher, you can ask or even require your learners to participate in the process, but “translation of a structure” is a high-level cognitive task. It has to do with what learning theorists would call Analysis and Synthesis, or what the Paideia model calls Understanding. For that to happen, and to stick, the learner has to do the analysis and synthesis him/herself. Otherwise, you’re just imparting factual Knowledge (“the Latin literally means …”), which is probably why you get those blank stares.

That principle of small steps with plenty of practice is definitely operative when it comes to passives. It sounds like your students are at a good place: they comprehend the sentence AND can tell who is doing and who is receiving the action. Those are two important steps in making that transformation, but there are MANY others. Perhaps the next step is to practice _matching_ a passive sentence with its active equivalent, and vice versa. Picking a frequent example from the Tres Columnae stories, “Cnaeus ā sorōribus dērīdētur,” the choices would be “Cnaeus sorōrēs dērīdet” or “sorōrēs Cnaeum dērīdent.” From there, you might move to having students just change the verb ending (since the passive verb endings are the “new thing” in this context): “Cnaeus ā sorōribus dērīd____.” Then you might practice one of the two noun transformations (acc to nom, or nom to abl) in isolation, and then practice changing it AND the verb at the same time. Then you’d add the other transformation, first in isolation and then in context. And, of course, if you want to “go the other way,” you’d need to model and practice each step of that process, too.

Actually, I think the “thicket of changing cases and endings” – like other “thickets” in which our students get lost – is a sign that there are too many steps going on at once. Latin teachers (and teachers in general!) tend to fall into the trap of explaining or demonstrating a complicated process once or twice, then assuming our students should be able follow all the steps perfectly. But that rarely happens! Breaking the process down this way might appear to take more time in the beginning, but it saves a lot of time later … no anguished cries of “I don’t get it,” fewer low quiz scores, less frustration!

I went on to mention that the Tres Columnae self-correcting exercises (like the samples you can see here at our Instructure Public Demo site) are designed to build students’ skills in this step-by-step manner. I also noted the old axiom that comprehension precedes production, which I hope was helpful to him and to the other list members there. Even if you haven’t used the textbook, I think you’ll find a very congenial, creative, insightful bunch of teachers and learners on that list … and many of them don’t participate in such “mainstream” groups as Latinteach or Latin-BestPractices.

At the moment, though, let’s return our focus to the Tres Columnae Project stories featured in this week’s posts. Today, as promised, we feature the story from Lectiō XVI in which Maccia Lolliī, mother of Cāius and Lollia, is about to give birth to their baby brother Quartus. Cāius, conveniently, is still on the trip to Milan with his friend Lucius that begins in Lectiō XVI, and Lollius himself (as we saw in yesterday’s featured story) is busy praying for a safe delivery. So Maccia turns to her daughter Lollia for help summoning the midwife.

As I think about the Latin textbooks I know well, I realize that midwives aren’t very prominent, even when (as usually happens in the “Big Three” reading-method books) a character does give birth. I don’t know why that is, either. Of course, midwives are the archetype of the independent woman in the ancient world – and, for that matter, they’re just about the only independent women in the ancient world – so Roman men probably found them a bit terrifying. Other than the father’s role of acknowledging paternity by picking up the newborn child, men had very little to do with birth in the Roman world, and that probably helps to explain the silence of the textbooks. But we’re aiming for more, so Paulla the obstētrīx (like her mouse-counterpart in this story from later in Lectiō XVI), plays a major role in the birth narrative, which you can also find here on the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site if you prefer.   We think you’ll find her a memorable character, too!

dum Lollius ad sepulcrum māiōrum Mānēs precātur, Maccia quoque mātūrē surgit et deae Iunōnī Lucīnae precēs adhibet. tum per cēnāculum celeriter ambulat onmia bene purgātum. dum mūrōs lavat, subitō “heus!” exclāmat, “nōnne venter mihi maximē dolet. Lollia! mē audī!” Lollia ad mātrem celeriter contendit et, “quid vīs, māter mea?” sollicita rogat. tum Maccia, “heus!” inquit, “venter mihi maximē dolet! tē oportet obstētrīcem quaerere, quod tempus adest!”

Maccia ad cubiculum prōgreditur et statim recumbit. Lollia iānuam cēnāculī aperit et celeriter ēgreditur. obstētrīx est anus sexāgintā annōrum, cui nōmen Paulla est. in īnsulā proximā habitat. Lollia igitur celeriter quīnque scālīs dēscendit et hanc īnsulam ingreditur. tribus scālīs Paulla in cēnāculō pulchrō habitat. Lollia iānuam pulsat et, “quaesō, Paulla obstētrīx, māter mea Maccia Lolliī tē rogat!”

Paulla in cēnāculō clāmōrēs Lolliae audit et “hem!” sēcum putat, “sine dubiō iste pauper Lollius mē grātīs uxōrem adiuvāre exspectat.” īrāta et fessa est Paulla quod hīs tribus diēbus quīnque mātrēs īnfantēs suōs gignere iam adiuvat. ad iānuam cēnāculī igitur haud contendit, sed in sellā suā prope fenestram sedet. Lollia tamen, ignāra īrārum Paullae, iterum iterumque iānuam pulsat et clāmat. tandem Paulla “heus!” sēcum putat, “mē oportet istam iānuam aperīre! sine dubiō ista puella eam frangere in animō habet!” Paulla igitur iānuam aperit et, “quis mē ita appellat?” īrāta Lolliam rogat. Lollia anxia, “salvē, obstētrīx,” inquit et Paullam rīte salūtat. Paulla “salvē atque tū, puella,” respondet et, “num tū partūrīs?” magnō cum rīsū rogat. Lollia ērubēscit et, “nōn ego, sed māter mea, illa Maccia Lolliae, amīca tua,” obstētrīcī respondet.

Paulla “haud mihi amīca māter tua, sed pater certē dēbitor!” exclāmat. “nōnne pater tuus mihi trēs dēnāriōs hōs duōs annōs iam dēbet?” Lollia iterum ērubēscit et, “obstētrīx benigna,” Paullae respondet, “nōnne adveniō dēnāriōs tibi datum?” sacculum pecūniā plēnum obstētrīcī offert. Paulla sacculum aperit et pecūniam avida numerat. tum “ēhem! trēs enim dēnāriōs, duōs sestertiōs quoque! dī mihi favent … et sine dubiō dī patrī tuō favent! cūr tamen mē hodiē petis?”

et Lollia “ō obstētrīx benigna,” respondet, “quaesō, amābō tē, venī mēcum ad cēnāculum! māter enim nunc iam partūrit et tē exspectat.” Paulla “veniō nunc iam,” Lolliae respondet. “fortasse iste pater tuus mihi dēnāriōs dēbitōs celerius iam potest.”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Since this post is getting a bit long, we’ll save my questions … and any that you want to share … for tomorrow’s post. We’ll also find out what happens when little Quartus arrives. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Published in: on July 20, 2010 at 10:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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More about Casina, IV

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! This is a big day for my favorite-and-only daughter, whom I’ve mentioned from time to time in previous posts. She turns 13 today, and I wish her safe and relatively happy passage through the minefields of the teenage years! She and I will save our just-Dad-and-daughter celebration for Saturday. Like most girls her age, she loves shoe-shopping, and like her dad, she enjoys bargain-hunting, so it will be a fun day for everyone … including her little brother, who gets a much-needed break from his “bossy” big sister!

Today is also a great day for the Tres Columnae Project! A lot of great things have been happening behind the scenes, as our community takes ever-greater Ownership of the learning materials themselves. I want to highlight a recent comment, by our relatively new community member Leslie P., who noticed – and quite reasonably questioned – part of this story. Her concern: Fabius the magister charges poor Lollius more than he charges wealthy Valerius, but in ancient Mediterranean cultures (and even in some cultures today where bargaining is expected) it is normal and customary for the wealthy to pay more. In my response, I noted that Valerius, too, is surprised, and that he plōrat et queritur Lollius, exclaiming tantam avāritiam! Of course, in the end, he also gets the price for Caius’ education down (to the same price he’s paying for Lucius to be educated, in fact, since he’s the one paying for both) … and Fabius remarks that he would, in fact, have taken less. And so we wonder:

  • Is it just that Lollius is bad at negotiation?
  • Is Fabius, who seems like a sympathetic character in later stories like this one, actually greedy?
  • Or is something else going on here?

Even the simplest-looking story can, on closer investigation, open a window into deeper Understanding as well as Knowledge and Skill! I’m so grateful to Leslie for raising the issue, and I invite all of our lectōrēs fidēlissimī to comment on – and question – any aspect of the Tres Columnae Project that leaves you wondering or scratching your head.

Sometimes, of course, our lectōrēs fidēlissimī find real errors that need to be corrected. For example, I need to express grātiās maximās to our friend Paul P, whose voice you can hear on the recorded version of this story, for pointing out (very kindly, too) that the -o- in Caeliola is short. vae mihi, et vae nōbīs! I think we’ve corrected all of the text by now, and our faithful collaborator Ann is almost done fixing the audio. But please let us know if you find any other vowel-quantity errors!

If you haven’t seen it yet, Part 2 of Ann’s students’ video version of the story of Cnaeus and the horse is now available from this link at Vimeo. Lots of characters make mistakes in this story! And you may find a few imperfections in the video itself; at least, they’d be imperfections in a professional video shoot. We’re all curious to know what you think.

In all these cases, mistakes and imperfections – and the process of correcting them – played an important part. Mistakes, both real and apparent, can be a wonderful teachable moment … especially in learning a language! There’s no need to fear them, especially when they can be corrected easily. I am actually a big proponent of mistakes, for several reasons:

  • They’re going to happen anyway – everyone makes them. So why pretend to be perfect when you’re not?
  • If I as teacher make a mistake, it normalizes mistake-making and reduces learners’ anxiety – especially if those learners are perfectionists like me! 🙂
  • When I encourage you, the learner, to look for mistakes I make, it builds community between us; we’re all aiming to improve our skills, and it’s OK for all of us to offer corrections or suggestions to each other.
  • It also reduces the “power gap” that can appear when the teacher is seen as the Source of All Wisdom and the learner is seen as the Empty Vessel To Be Filled Up with Knowledge.
  • And, of course, when students have the power to find and correct mistakes, they naturally have a lot more Ownership in the learning process.

As I think about mistakes, I realize they are also an important theme in our current set of stories. Is it a mistake, for example, for Valerius to spend so much time and trouble on a cure for Casina’s morbus novissimus? Is he mistaken, for that matter, in believing that she really is sick? Is she mistakenly attempting to take advantage of his generosity? We don’t yet know, and we may not find out for a while. But we should also remember that life, by its very nature, involves a lot of situations where we don’t know the “right” answer but still have to take action. What do you think: is it better to act, and possibly make a mistake, or to be paralyzed and do nothing?

Anyway, in today’s story from our continuing sequence about Casina and the attempts to cure her morbus novissimus (and, of course, to placate the potentially angry lemur or umbra of her īnfāns mortuus), we find Casina, along with her domina Caelia and her future domina Valeria, on the way to the temple of Bona Dea. You can also find it at this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site if you’d like.

per omnēs urbis Rōmae viās continuō festīnātur et clāmātur. plūrimī enim cīvēs per viās contendunt negōtium āctum. plūrimī servī per viās festīnant mandāta dominōrum effectum. senātōrēs quoque et fēminae Rōmānae per viās prōgrediuntur. aliquandō multī servī agmen dūcunt; aliquandō vel quattuor vel octō servī lectīcam umerīs ferunt. turbae cīvium servōrumque lectīcās avidī spectant. “quis in istā lectīcā nunc sedet?” rogant et respondent.

Caelia et Valeria quoque cum Casinā ancillā per viās ad templum Bonae Deae lectīcā Claudiī feruntur. “nōnne lectīcam servōsque Claudiī Pulchrī cōnspiciō?” exclāmant nōnnullī. servī tamen tacitī nihil respondent. per viās urbis ad templum Bonae Deae lentē prōgrediuntur. multitūdō enim dēnsa viās complet et lectīcāriīs obstat.

dum Caelia Valeriaque ad templum Bonae Deae cum Casinā prōgrediuntur, Valerius et Lūcius domī Claudiī Pulchrī manent. “virōs enim puerōsque haud decet templō Bonae Deae appropinquāre,” inquit Valerius. “Bonae Deae mulierēs, nōn virī sunt cordī. virōs haud licet mystēria Bonae Deae spectāre – ego igitur templum quoque vītō, quod vīta sālūsque mihi sunt cordī. nōnne multōs abhinc annōs ille Publius Clōdius, vestibus fēmineīs indūtus, mystēria Bonae Deae vidēre temptābat? nōnne comprehēnsus et accūsātus, vix poenās ultimās vītāre poterat? atavus enim tuus, ille Sextus Valerius, iūdex erat. ōrātiōnēs Cicerōnis per tōtam vītam memoriā tenēbat.”

dum Valerius rem tōtam nārrat et Lūcius avidus audit, Caelia et Valeria cum Casinā tandem ad templum Bonae Deae perveniunt. lectīcāriī fessī lectīcam dēpōnunt. fēminae sollicitae dē lectīcā dēscendunt et templum Bonae Deae ingrediuntur. sacrificia sollemnia cum vōtīs precibusque in ārā Bonae Deae offerunt. tum sacerdōtēs illās in hortum templī dūcunt, ubi multōs flōrēs multāsque herbās cōnspicantur. deinde sacerdōs Caeliam adloquitur et, “ō mulier,” inquit, “quid morbōrum tē afflīgit? quid auxiliī ā Bonā Deā petis?” Caelia “ō sacerdōs,” respondet, “nōn mihi, sed huic ancillae auxilium deae quaerō. “multōs enim diēs somnia novissima cum febribus hanc ancillam afflīgunt.”

sacerdōs vōce serēnā, “mē decet,” inquit, “cum ancillā ipsā colloquī. puella, dīc mihi: quālia somnia tē afflīgunt? quid in somniīs appāret?”

Casina perterrita paulīsper tacet. tandem, “ō sacerdōs,” respondet, “cotīdiē in somniīs appāret lemur īnfantis, quī vultū verbīsque mē terret. aliquandō somnia mē immōtam reddunt; aliquandō dominum familiamque agnōscere haud possum. quaesō, amābō tē, ō sacerdōs, mē adiuvā!”

sacerdōs attonitus tacet. tum “puella,” Casinam rogat, “quid verbōrum audīs? quid vultūs vidēs?” et Casina, “lemur īnfantis mē adloquitur et, “venī ad mē,” ait. vultum pallidum gerit, et valdē timeō!” tum sacerdōs, “num,” respondet, “est tibi īnfāns lemurī similis?” Casina lacrimīs et ululātibus sē trādit et tandem, “īnfāns meus nōn vīvit, sed in urbe Pompēiīs hōs decem annōs insepultus et mortuus iacet,” susurrat.

sacerdōs perterritus, “heu!” clāmat, “lemur ā tē abestō! lemurēs ab omnibus abestōte!” templum celeriter ingreditur precātum et sacrificātum. tandem ēgreditur sacerdōs et, “puella,” inquit, “sine dubiō somnia tua sunt ōmina maximī mōmentī.” Caeliam adloquitur et, “rēctē, ō mulier,” inquit, “hanc ancillam hūc dūcis, quod ōmina tālia fāta dīra tōtī familiae significant. nōnne necesse est ancillae tuae herbās flōrēsque hīc ēsse? fortasse tamen Nemesis ipsa, vēmēns dea, haec ōmina ancillae tuae mittit. sī Nemesis somnia mittit, ancillam quoque oportet templum Aesculapiī vīsitāre. nōnne enim Aesculapius deus, quī remedia in somniīs mittit, somnia tālia cūrāre potest? hodiē ancillam decet herbās nostrās ēsse, nocte proximā in īnsulā Aesculapiī prope templum dormīre.”

tum sacerdōs templum iterum ingreditur herbās flōrēsque quaesītum. mox regreditur et, “puella,” inquit, “tē decet haec ēsse et hoc pōculum haurīre.” Casina perterrita sacerdōtī pāret; herbās celeriter ēst et pōculum haurit. tum Casina cum Caeliā Valeriāque iterum iterumque Bonam Deam precātur. tandem, trēs post hōrās, Caelia et Valeria Casinam ex hortō templī dūcunt et lectīcam iterum cōnscendunt. lectīcāriī pedēs lectīcae umerīs tollunt, et per viās urbis ad domum Claudiī Pulchrī lentē regrediuntur.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

To keep from overwhelming you, I think I want to deal with the implications of this story in tomorrow’s post – so please feel free to let me know what issues you think we should explore, either with a comment here or with a private email. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

More about Casina, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As I continued to reflect on the themes of community and identity we’ve been addressing in this series of posts, I noticed several things. First, of course, there are obvious connections between these themes and the core beliefs of the Tres Columnae Project. Even our commitment to providing for various types of learning stems from a passionate commitment to the very different identities of our participants: Some of you learn best in one way, while others learn best in another; some would like to make and create a lot of Submissions to the Project, while others would prefer to focus on their reading and listening-comprehension skills. Rather than dictate every step of the learning process, we aim to provide you with lots of different material, and we’ll guide you (if you need some guidance) to find the right path for you. At the same time, though, if you do join our community, we ask you to commit to building your Knowledge, Skill, and Understanding of Latin and of the Roman world.

In order to join any community – and perhaps especially a Joyful Learning Community – you, the potential member, have to make a conscious choice to identify with the values and expected behaviors of that community. In our case, of course, those values include Joy, Learning, Community, and Ownership, and expected behaviors include extensive reading, active creation, participation in thoughtful dialogue, and an avoidance of what Dexter Hoyos calls “translation in order to understand.” A lēctor fidēlissimus made an excellent point about the connection between values and behavior in an email to me the other day, which I’m quoting with his permission:

I suspect that it is true of the human being that anything we do, repeatedly over time, both expresses and shapes who we are. Early on, it may express more, and through time, shape more.

So, that language that we use about what we do does express and shape who we are. A teacher who chooses to speak of what “we are doing together” is expressing something and, I believe, radically reshaping the work of education. I find that when I run into a parent in the grocery store or somewhere, and we begin to chat, I usually tell them that I have enjoyed “working with” their son or daughter. I just find it uncomfortable and really not quite true to say “I’ve enjoyed teaching your child.” Some days, some class sessions, it’s not always clear who the teacher is!

We could probably spend at least a week unpacking all the implications of this comment, and relating it to the points about I, they, and we that we’ve been considering this week! For the moment, though, I invite you to read it again and let each phrase and clause sink in.

Speaking of Joy, Learning, Community, and Ownership – and Identity, too, for that matter – check out this amazing video from our faithful friend and collaborator Ann M and her Year 7 students in England. It’s the beginning of their slightly adapted version of the story of Cnaeus and the horse from Lectiō XIV. I’m told that there’s more to come!

Themes of identity and community are also important to the development of the story-line itself. By their decision to seek a cure for Casina’s morbus, Valerius and Caelia have clearly chosen a form of community with their ancilla: they’ve taken the whole familia on a difficult, expensive trip to Rome in an attempt to cure her, and Valerius himself has faced some surprise (and even some ridicule) from friends and acquaintances in the process. He seems to be committed to the spirit as well as the letter of notions like pietās, and of the complicated customs and laws that govern the interactions between dominī and servī in the Roman world – in sharp contrast to his brother-in-law, who has displayed a very different attitude about servī (and ancillae in particular) in stories like this one and this one. In fact, even Caelius’ friend Claudius Pulcher, with whom the familiae are staying in Rome, seems shocked and surprised by Valerius’ pietās, despite his not-entirely-serious exclamation of respect near the end of this story.

As the overall story-line of the Tres Columnae Project continues to unfold, we’ll see some further repercussions of Valerius’ pietās, and we’ll also find out whether young Lucius fulfills the childhood dream he expresses in this story. But that’s for another day! 🙂 Today, let’s continue to explore the sequence of stories about Casina and her morbus novissimus with the story, now available from this link at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha wiki site, in which Valerius is explaining the initial treatment plan to a bewildered, but ultimately delighted Casina:

hodiē māne Casina ē lectō anxia surgit. Valerium quaerit et “mī domine,” inquit, “cūr mē tantō honōre afficis? nōnne ancilla sum tua? cūr igitur mēcum iter Rōmam facis? cūr remedia mihi quaeris? plūrimī enim dominī, cum servī aegrotant, illōs vel pūniunt vel vēndunt.”

Valerius “Casina mea,” respondet, “nēminem oportet servum aegrum pūnīre vel vēndere. nōnne enim et legeēs et pietās ipsa tālia prohibent? praetereā, nōnne somnia tua sunt ōmina perīculōsa? sī lemur dominum tuum quaerit pūnītum, haud mē decet tē vēndere; lemur enim sine dubiō et mē et dominum novum sānē petere potest! num quis dominōrum tam audāx est? num quis tam stultus? perīculum ā familiā meā āvertere volō, sed hospitī vel clientī trānsferre certē nōlō. nōs ergō decet tē cūrāre et remedia tibi quaerere. fortasse et dīs et lemurī sīc placēre possumus!”

Casina attonita nihil respondet. haec Valeriī verba in animō iterum iterumque volvit. tandem Valerius, “heus!” exclāmat, “tibi ad cubiculum regrediendum et quiēscendum est, Casina. hodiē enim ad templum Bonae Deae cum Caeliā Valeriāque festīnāre dēbēs, et iter longum est.”

Casina anxia, “mī domine,” rogat, “cūr ad hoc templum prōcēditur?”

et Valerius, “in hortō templī,” Casinae respondet, “sunt plūrimae herbae, quae remedia morbōrum plūrimīs aegrōtīs iam praebent. tum hodiē vespere in templō Aesculāpiī dormiendum est. nōnne deus Aesculāpius saepe somnia mīrābilia aegrōtīs mittit? fortasse vel Bona Dea vel deus Aesculapius tibi remedia praebēre potest.”

Casina, “tibi gratiās maximās agō, mī domine,” Valeriō respondet et ad cubiculum regreditur quiētum. “heus!” sēcum susurrat, “fortasse īnfāns meus lībertātem quam mortem mihi fert? nōnne enim servī aegrī, quōs dominī prope templum Aesculapiī relinquunt, sunt līberī sī forte convalēscunt? dīs dominōque grātiās maximās agō! sī enim mors mihi imminet, cum īnfantī meō erō; sī vīta manet, fortasse līberta erō; et dominus mē Valeriolae meae dōnō nūptiālī nunc iam prōmittit. grātiās maximās dīs vōbīs īnfantīque agō, quod nūntium optimum mihi fertis!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • As I wrote this story, and even more so as I read it in preparation for this blog post, I was struck by the many issues it raises. Issues of gender, of silence and speech, of authority and the response to authority, of freedom and slavery – we managed to pack quite a lot into a relatively simple little story! Which issues do you think would be the most productive to discuss with your students, and how would you want to shape the discussion? Are there issues you would not want to raise with them?
  • What do you think about Casina’s morbus now – especially her visions of the īnfāns? Do you suppose that, at some level, the sickness and the dream might have been caused by Casina’s desire for freedom? What evidence from this or other stories might you use to support such an interpretation?
  • If you accept that interpretation, I suppose it raises a number of other questions. For example, is Casina taking advantage of Valerius’ generosity and pietās? If so, is she doing it consciously or unconsciously? And would that – or should that – make a difference in Valerius’ response to her?
  • Or, if you don’t accept that interpretation, what do you suppose did cause the morbus and the dreams? And how do you respond to Casina’s sudden realization about the potential for freedom if, in fact, it is a sudden realization – or at least a sudden conscious realization?
  • How do you want the story to end? Should Casina recover? Should she join her īnfāns and be at rest? Should she become a līberta? Or should she go with Valeria as a dōnum nūptiāle? Or should this be one of the cases where we provide several alternate endings and let you, our lectōrēs fidēlissimī and subscribers, choose the one that works best for you?

Tune in next time, when Casina and her domina travel to the first of the two templa. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

More about Casina, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! It was good to hear from several lectōrēs fidēlissimī by email about the idea of the I, they, and we aspects of teaching and learning. (If you come from a religious tradition that uses the Revised Common Lectionary, you probably heard the parable of the Good Samaritan last Sunday, and that may have sparked some of your thoughts about community – we, rather than I or they – as it did for me.) We’ll actually explore more issues of community and identity in today’s featured story – and, like the wounded man in the parable, we (and our characters) may find community in some pretty unlikely places, though I hope we won’t suffer the kind of rejection by “our own” community that he faces.

First, though, I’d like to deal with an issue I meant to raise in yesterday’s post, but postponed until today so the post wouldn’t become excessively long … and also because writing about I, they, and we took a lot of emotional energy! That issue, which you’ve probably guessed if you read yesterday’s featured story, was the way that Latin teachers and textbooks relate to various kinds of violence in the ancient world. As I think about the Latin textbooks I know best, they certainly make it plain that Rome was a violent place: there are lots of violent stories from Roman history and from mythology, and of course there are scenes of slaves being beaten and of spectācula in the amphitheater. But it’s not all that common to mention crucifixion – even though crucified criminals were a fairly common sight along Imperial roads.

Why this silence about crucifixion, I wonder? Perhaps some textbook authors are understandably squeamish – after all, crucifixion was certainly one of the most painful and horrible methods of execution ever devised. Others may not want to bring up the obvious and unavoidable connections to Christianity, fearing that their books might not sell as well. But I really don’t think we do justice to the whole picture of the Roman world without considering the public display of executions, both in the arena and on crosses. In both case, there’s an obvious show of state power, and an obvious belief that public executions will serve as a deterrent to others who might commit similar crimes … and yet, in both cases, there was a continuing supply of victims! Does that mean that public executions did or didn’t work as a deterrent? I’m not sure that we can know – especially since we don’t have access to Imperial Roman crime statistics, and in any case we can’t use our local time machine to go back and do a controlled trial in different parts of the Roman world. But that issue is one that might fruitfully be discussed with a group of learners, depending on their interests and maturity.

And that raises yet another issue: how old, or how mature, should young learners be before we introduce them to the ugly realities of the ancient world?   If you’re producing a conventional textbook, one where all the learners will, ipso facto, be expected to read all the stories and do all the exercises, that question alone might cause you to leave out the Romans’ penchant for violent public executions. After all, you might lose sales to programs for younger learners – and rightfully so! But with the Tres Columnae Project, that is much less of an issue. There are more stories than most teachers or students would probably want to read, so you have a choice … and as a teacher, you might well want to make some choices for your learners, especially if you work with younger children or with families who have special requirements. We’ll be designing ITINERA through the materials for that purpose, and we invite you to create – and share – your own ITER or multiple ITINERA too. And if you like parts of a story, but think other parts are too violent or “too too” in some other way, we’ll invite you to create a Submission that keeps the parts you like and eliminates the ones you find objectionable. Just try that with your local textbook!

Anyway, in today’s story, which you can now find here at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site, the Valeriī and Caeliī have finally arrived at Rome, and Valerius expects to need a hotel room. There’s a bit of a conflict when he discovers that Caelius has made other arrangements:

post longum iter familia Valeria urbem Rōmam advenit. “nōbīs necesse est,” inquit Valerius, “tabernam nōtissimam invenīre, ubi manēre et quiēscere possumus.” Caelius tamen attonitus, “mī Valerī!” exclāmat, “num mē, quī senātor sum Rōmānus, decet in tabernā manēre? nōs oportet cum Claudiō Pulchrō, quī cōnsōbrīnus uxōris meae est, manēre. nōnne Claudius vir optimī ingeniī et multae pecūniae est? nōnne amīcus et hospes vīcīnī tuī, illīus Flavius Caesōnis? Claudius autem nunc iam nōs exspectat.”

Valerius, quī Claudium haud amat, nihilōminus cōnsentit, quod Claudius ipse prope portum urbis stat. lectīca maxima, quam octō servī ferunt, quoque adest. Claudius Valerium cōnspicit et “heus! mī Valerī!” clāmat. “nōnne mē decet hospitium tibi et Caeliō praebēre? dīc mihi, amīce, quis fēminārum tuārum nunc aegrōtat? num uxor tua? num fīlia?”

Caelius haec interpellat: “mī Claudī, Valerius noster hoc tam longum iter facit, quod ancilla aegrōtat.” Claudius attonitus manūs Claudiō prēnsat et “ancilla?” susurrat. “num ancilla – in lectīcā meā – Caelī, cūr nōn –?”

Valerius īrātus interpellat, “mī Claudī, tacē et audī! ancilla enim mea, cum aegrōtat, in somniīs imāginem īnfantis mortuī semper videt et audit. nōnne portentum horribile? Rōmae adsum, quod pietās ipsa mē cōgit. mē enim decet cāsūs ruīnāsque ā familiā meā āvertere!”

Claudius, quī dīs portentīsque haud crēdit, sēcum rīdet, sed tandem, “mī Valerī, tē valdē laudō,” inquit, “quod vir summae pietātis es. nonne ego, quī sacerdōs ipse sum, tē adiuvāre possum? omnēs enim sacerdōtēs, quī in hāc urbe habitant, nōtissimī mihi sunt. facile est tibi cum illīs colloquī; facile est cūram ancillae invenīre et portentum āvertere.”

Valerius laetus cōnsentit. Caelia cum Valeriā et Caeliōlā lectīcam cōnscendit; Casina perterrita quoque cōnscendit. Vipsānia cum Prīmā et Secundā cōnscendit. lectīcāriī summā cum difficultāte lectīcam tollunt et per viās urbis lentē prōgrediuntur. Valerius et Caelius cum līberīs lectīcae sequuntur. Claudius ipse cum decem servīs agmen dūcit. in animō verba Valeriī volvit et cachinnibus rīsibusque sē trādit. “heus!” inquit, “quam stultus et rūdus est iste, quī dīs ita crēdit!”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • How might you approach the social-class issues inherent in this story?
  • Would it make a difference if you were working with very wealthy students (who might identify with Caelius), with very poor students (who might identify with Casina and the colōnī), or with a socioeconomically mixed group?
  • What about Claudius’ attitude towards dīs portentīsque, even though he is sacerdōs ipse?
  • How do you suppose Valerius would have responded if he’d heard Claudius’ closing words?
  • Or for that matter, do you think Valerius himself believes what he said to Claudius about the portentum? Or are both of them playing their parts, saying the “right” words and hedging their bets just in case there really are listening, thunderbolts in hand?

Tune in next time, when the search for Casina’s cure begins in earnest. We may or may not find out the answers to some of these questions! intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus. Thanks again for becoming part of the “we” that is the Joyful Learning Community of the Tres Columnae Project.

More about Casina, I

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! et grātiās maximās to our new Tres Columnae Project “free” subscribers – especially those of you who are planning to convert to Basic and Standard subscriptions when those are available! It’s an exciting time for all of us, and I truly appreciate your comments, messages, and all the other ways you’ve been supporting the project recently. Particular thanks to our friend Paul P, who very kindly pointed out that the -o- in Caeliola is short. We’ll be re-recording all the stories in which she appears, and future stories with –ola and –olus words will have correct accents and quantities! (Isn’t it odd, though, that –illus and –ellus words, with their double consonants, have a heavy syllable there?) Please do let us know, either with a comment or a private email, if you find other issues with quantities, accentuation, syntax, or anything else in any of the Tres Columnae Project stories.

Anyway, we’ll let you know as soon as the paid subscription options – and the Single Submission opportunity – become available. In the meantime, of course, if you’d like to start working on a story – or illustrations and audio to accompany an existing story, or a video version of an existing story – please go ahead! We’ll let you know as soon as you can start submitting them, but we really need to resolve the “backend software” issue I mentioned in Thursday’s post, and we also need to be able to accept your payments. We’ll be working on those issues behind the scenes for the next few weeks, and we’ll also be working hard on our software solution for Version Beta.

We’ll continue today with the sequence of stories about poor Casina, ancilla Valeriī, and the morbus novissimus that has caused her dominus to take her (and the whole familia) to Rome in search of a cure. It turns out that Valerius’ brother-in-law Caelius is also coming to Rome with his familia, planning to sell some of the produce from his vīlla for a better price in the big city – or to have someone do that for him, since it would hardly be suitable for a man of his status to deal directly with, gasp, commerce! Unfortunately, this means that young Cnaeus and his sisters are there, too – and, for you lectōrēs fidēlissimī who have been following the project for a while, Cnaeus has once again earned the privilege of riding a horse! (I think we can all safely assume it’s a different horse from the one in this story from Lectiō XIV; I don’t think either Cnaeus or that horse would want to continue their relationship!) Anyway, in today’s story, which you can also find at this link at the Version Alpha Wiki site, different members of the familiae respond very differently to a typical roadside sight in the Roman world:

“heus!” clāmat Valerius, “quam mē taedet itinerum!” Valerius et Lūcius lentē per Viam Appiam equitant. quibus sequitur carpentum, in quō Casina cum Caeliā et Valeriā Caeliōlāque sedet. Milphiō equōs, quī carpentum trahunt, per viam agit. tum Caelius ipse cum Cnaeō equitat. carpentum splendidum Prīmam et Secundam cum mātre Vipsāniā vehit. tum duō servī mūlōs agunt, quī plaustrum maximum trahunt. in plaustrō sunt plūrimī saccī plūrimaeque amphorae. trēs colōnī quoque in plaustō sedent. Caelius enim olīvās ūvāsque suās cum vīnō et oleō Rōmae vēndere in animō habet; haud tamen decet senātōrem Rōmānum negōtium in forīs agere. colōnī igitur Caelium comitantur negōtium āctum et haec omnia vēnditum. Valerius laetissimus est quod olīvae ūvaeque Rōmae māiōris pretiī vēneunt quam Herculāneī.

“ūna tamen cūra,” sēcum putat, “mihi est. cūr Valeriō, amīcō meō et marītō sorōris meae, ancilla aegra cūrae est? num mē oportet –?”

subitō ingēns clāmor oritur. “heus! quid est? quī clāmant?” omnēs rogant et respondent. tum omnēs ad agrum proximum oculōs vertunt, ubi quīnque crucēs in summō collō stant. in crucibus sunt corpora lātrōnum; prope crucēs fēminae ululātibus et lacrimīs sē trādunt. adsunt duō mīlitēs Rōmānī, quī crucēs custōdiunt. “vōs haud oportet crucibus appropinquāre!” exclāmant mīlitēs.

Cnaeus avidus crucēs spectat. “vae! heu!” subitō clāmat. “num mortuī sunt istī? utinam nunc iam latrōnēs clāment et ululent!” Caelius Cnaeō, “ita vērō, mī fīlī,” respondet, “nōnne latrōnēs cruciātī spectāculum optimum nōbīs, monitūs optimōs sodālibus suīs praebent?” Cnaeus laetus cōnsentit, et pater fīliusque cachinnīs sē trādunt.

Lūcius tamen mīlitēs Rōmānōs avidus spectat et, “pater, mī pater,” tandem rogat, “ecce mīlitēs et gladiī! ecce scūta et galeae! hercle! quam mihi placent mīlitēs!” Valerius subrīdet et, “mī fīlī,” Lūciō respondet, “nōnne equitēs sumus? tē nōn decet mīles esse, sed fīliōs equitum certē decet tribūnōs fierī. fortasse, cum iuvenis eris–”

subitō ingēns clāmor in carpentō oritur. Casina enim crucēs cōnspicit et “īnfāns! mī īnfāns!” magnā vōce exclāmat. ancilla manūs extendit et subitō exanimāta dēcidit.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

There certainly are a lot of issues that one could discuss with a class – or a small group, or an individual – after reading this story, aren’t there? But before we delve into them, I want to deal with one of my least-favorite phrases, which someone might be tempted to use in this context. We teachers often refer to “teaching a story” (or, in the case of some Latin teachers, “teaching a translation,” where the word translation is synonymous with reading passage because the not-so-hidden assumption is that translation is the only means of reading or comprehending such a passage). Maybe it’s just me, but that phrase has always bothered me! I don’t think I “teach a story” to my students at all; instead, we work together to use a story to learn (or practice) something – the actual learning goal of the lesson or unit. I’ve gotten to the point where I actually cringe when I hear “I’m teaching Chapter 8 this week,” or even “I’m about to start To Kill a Mockingbird.” Teaching is not an “I” activity! Nor is it a “they” activity, as in “they’re taking their test on Chapter 12 today.” By its very nature, meā quidem sententiā, the best and deepest form of teaching is a “we” thing … teacher and students working together, learning from each other and emerging with something deeper, higher, better, and other than the knowledge, skill, or understanding with which we all started the lesson or unit. Even in a factory-model school, after all, isn’t everyone in that assembly-line classroom working? And I think the “we” nature of teaching and learning is even more apparent if you have a retail-store or workshop model of learning.

Of course, no one is perfect as a teacher or a learner; I’m certainly not, and I definitely have some “I” and “they” days from time to time – especially if I’m not feeling well, or if I’m under stress, or if students seem completely disengaged or apathetic. You probably have days like that from time to time, too. But one truly important goal of the Tres Columnae Project is to increase the number of “we” moments in all kinds of teaching and learning environments. As we build a Joyful Learning Community together, and as everyone builds real Ownership through creating and sharing original stories with each other, the sense of “we” should increase – and that should leave less time, less space, and less energy for the “I” moments of isolation or the “they” moments of adversary relationships.

So if you already are a “we” teacher, or if you’d like to become more of one, I hope you and your students will enjoy working together to explore some of the many issues raised by today’s story. I’m sure you’ve already thought of plenty, but in Version Beta of the project we’ll have some suggestions for background research and some Virtual Seminar prompts to start the conversations.

Tune in next time, when we’ll continue the conversation about this idea of I, we, and they – and when the Valeriī and Caeliī finally arrive in Rome. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

Casina ancilla, V

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! And thank you for the huge spike in blog traffic on Thursday! I’m not sure exactly what caused that, but I’m very grateful … and I’m also very grateful for all the visitors to the Version Alpha Wiki of the Tres Columnae Project, and for you new subscribers … and for you long-term lectōrēs fidēlissimī, too! If you haven’t looked at the first few Fabellae of Lectiō Prīma in a while, you may not have seen the new, full-color illustrations from our amazing illustrator Lucy M. Please check them out! And if you need an illustrator for an upcoming project, let me know and I can put you in touch with her.

We had an exciting email request this week … I don’t want to give too many details at this early point, but if it works out, it could lead to significant exposure for Tres Columnae among prospective Latin teachers. I’ll let you know when I can say more.

I do have one quick request, especially for my readers in the United States. I’d really like to hear from you if you work in a middle school (or even an elementary school) that uses a Pyramid of Intervention model for unsuccessful students – or if you live or work in a school district that uses that model – especially if the district doesn’t offer Latin classes at the middle-school level. (Actually, I’d love to know about districts like this that don’t offer Latin classes at all, too!) I’m particularly interested in schools that have a remediation/enrichment period built into the school day. I know that schools in this situation often struggle with what to do for the constantly-changing enrichment groups – the students who have mastered the skills or objectives that the remediation groups are working on – and I think we might be able to help.

If you have no idea what the last paragraph was about, please don’t worry! 🙂

Like the members of familia Valeria, I feel as though I’m at a crossroads as I write this post. There are all kinds of amazing opportunities out there, both for me personally and for the Tres Columnae Projec, but it’s hard to know which way to go, or which direction to turn first. I feel a bit like Valerius, I suppose: a perfectly ordinary, predictable life, with settled routines and comfortable expectations, suddenly turns upside down. Of course, in Valerius’ case, it’s all caused by a thing that seems pretty terrible – the mysterious illness of a faithful servant. In my case, the cause is much more positive – all the interest and excitement you’ve shown about Tres Columnae. What began life as a “small” collaborative space where my face-to-face students could create and share stories with each other has caused quite a stir and commotion. It’s very exciting for me, and very enjoyable, too, but it does upset the predictable routines of summer, just as Casina’s morbus novissimus upset the routine of an ordinary day for Valerius, Caelia, Milphio, Gallicus, and the children … not to mention poor Casina herself!

If you haven’t been following this story-line from Lectiō XIX of the Tres Columnae Project, you probably ought to know that

  • Casina, Valerius’ and Caelia’s sometimes-impatient ancilla, surprises her fellow-servants by not appearing at the crack of dawn in this story.
  • When Milphio and Gallicus investigate in this story, they find that Casina is afflicted by something that causes her not to recognize them, though she does see visions of Someone Else.
  • Valerius and Caelia are understandably concerned when they hear the (exaggerated) news from Gallicus in this story, and when they see for themselves in this one.
  • Valerius unsuccessfully seeks help from the religious authorities of Herculaneum (For some reason, he doesn’t call a doctor! I don’t know why, either), and finally, his daughter Valeria suggests some possible avenues for a cure in this story, and the whole familia sets out for Rome in today’s story.

Valerius is clearly a dominus pius et benignus in several senses of the word pius. Yes, he’s concerned about Casina’s welfare, but he’s also concerned about possible supernatural consequences for his family from an angry umbra or lemur. As I was reminded by the Google Books preview of Buckland’s The Roman Law of Slavery, a debt payable from a slave’s peculium legally survives the death of a previous owner, or other transfers of ownership. So, if ultiō owed to a lemur transfers like other debts, Valerius has some sound legal reasons to be afraid of the lemur – and besides, Roman ghosts probably aren’t very concerned with legal niceties! Even if the lemur has taken vengeance already, it might still be thirsty for more blood.

In any case, Valerius has decided to take Casina to Rome to seek a cure. (Maybe he’s thinking, as well, of the law, mentioned by Buckland, that grants freedom to sick slaves who are exposed by their masters on the island of Aesculapius, but survive. Perhaps he’s hoping that the lemur would respect manūmissiō?) It’s an interesting journey, to say the least, as we discover in today’s story, now available here at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha Wiki site if you’re interested:

hodiē māne per tōtam domum Valeriī festīnātur et clāmātur. Valerius enim cum uxōre līberīsque Rōmam proficīscī parat. Casina ancilla, quae quattuor diēs aegrōtat, in sellā iam anxia et fessa sedet. cotīdiē enim in somniīs Casina imāginem īnfantis mortuī videt, vōcem audit, manūs tangit. cotīdiē febrēs ancillam afflīgunt; cotīdiē surgere et labōrāre cōnātur, sed frūstrā. Valerius Casinae trīstī haec verba dīcit: “Casina mea, nōnne dominus tibi sum benignus? nōnne remedia morbōrum praebēre volō? nōs igitur tēcum Rōmam iter facimus. Rōmae enim est templum deī Aesculāpiī, ubi aegrōtī saepe remedia morbōrum accipiunt. Rōmae quoque est templum Bonae Deae, ubi aegrōtī herbās ēsse solent. Rōmae sunt medicī perītissimī. et Rōmae remedium morbōrum tuōrum invenīre possumus.”

Casina aegra et languida, “mī domine,” respondet, “tibi crēdere volō, sed difficile est. nam per tōtam noctem imāginem īnfantis mortuī videō, vōcem audiō, manūs tangō … et imāgō nōn crūdēlis, sed benigna esse vidētur. fortasse dī mē ad Tartarum nunc arcessunt – num dīs impedīre vīs? nōnne melius est omnibus domī manēre et mortem meam exspectāre?”

Valerius paulīsper tacet. nam in somniīs suīs quoque appāret imāgō īnfantis Casinae. aliquandō imāgō benignē sē gerit; per viās urbis Rōmae ambulat, manūs extendit, et remedia morbōrum Casinae offert. aliquandō tamen in somniīs imāgō cubiculum Valeriī ingreditur et “hīc manē, asine!” clāmat. tum imāgō manūs extendit Valerium verberātum et necātum; “tē petō pūnītum” vōce dīrā exclāmat. Valerius igitur maximē dubitat. “quid facere dēbeō?” identidem tacitus rogat. nihil tamen dē somniīs, nihil dē pavōre suō familiae patefacit, quod paterfamiliās pius est.

tandem Valerius, “Casina mea, nōnne dominus sum tuus?” rogat. Casina statim cōnsentit. “nōlī,” inquit Valerius, “tālia verba dīcere! nōnne tē decet mandātīs dominī pārēre?” Casina statim cōnsentit. “et tibi hoc māndō,” addit Valerius, “tē oportet remedia morbōrum Rōmae petere. surge nunc, et hoc carpentum intrā!” Casina fessa lentē surgit et in carpentum ascendit.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • What do you think of Casina’s suggestion to Valerius? Is it the response that pietās, or any of the other Roman virtūtēs, would dictate for a person in her situation?
  • Or, for that matter, would Casina even think in such terms? Did the Romans bother to inculcate an idea of the virtūtēs in their slaves, or did they just manage them with fear and intimidation?
  • What about Valerius’ dreams? From our twenty-first-century perspective, it’s easy to understand why Valerius is having dreams about the imāgō, isn’t it? Even if you’re not a psychologist, you probably can come up with some good psychological-sounding terms. But put those aside for a moment, and imagine you live in Valerius’ world. What possible explanations could he have for such dreams?
  • Why do you suppose Valerius has said nothing about his dreams? And why did I put in that little clause quod paterfamiliās pius est as an explanation for his silence? Does pietās really dictate that the paterfamiliās hide his own fears? I’m thinking of a passage in Book I of the Aeneid here, one that many lectōrēs fidēlissimī have probably already thought of, too.
  • And what about Valerius’ decision to go to Rome? Do you suppose he’s trying to escape the lemur? Or does he believe the first set of dreams, in which the imāgō seems to be inviting him to go to Rome?
  • And since Romans did believe so strongly in dreams and visions, how do you suppose they reconciled conflicting ones like these?

Tune in next time, when we’ll observe familia Valeria on their journey to Rome and attempt to answer some of these questions. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus. I especially look forward to hearing from folks who know anything about “Pyramid of Interventions” schools!

Casina ancilla, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Before we continue with the story of Casina’s morbus novissimus, I want to share some good news. As of yesterday, the Tres Columnae Project has received our first request for a full-school subscription, to start in the fall. (With well over 50 students involved, they’ll be paying US $7.50 per Basic subscription per year, or 75 cents a month. We think that’s a pretty good deal, since the students will

  • have access to Tres Columnae materials (stories, images, audio, video, explanations, exercises, quizzes, and the Virtual Seminar) from home, school, or anywhere, without having to carry any heavy textbooks;
  • get immediate feedback on their responses to exercises and reading-comprehension questions; and even
  • periodically make Single Submissions of stories, images, audio, and video to the project.

We challenge you to find a textbook that can do all of that … especially for $7.50 per user per year! 🙂

After talking with the teacher, I think they’ll save even more money by having students do joint submissions and split the editing fee several ways – and I’d encourage you to consider that approach, especially if budgets are a concern for you. Even with a Standard subscription, groups of 4 could make 4 submissions each month without overwhelming themselves or the Tres Columnae Project.

To celebrate – and to prepare for what lies ahead as our subscriptions grow – we’ll probably be migrating from the Version Alpha Wiki to a different software system. The Version Alpha will still be there, but we’ll also offer a link from it to the “production” version of the site when it’s ready. We’re still thinking about the best “backend” software to use, since we want something that

  • makes various levels of subscriptions, and Single Submission purchases, trouble-free for you, the community, to purchase;
  • allows for different types of access for different levels of subscribers, without requiring complicated log-in procedures;
  • makes it easy and painless to upload multimedia submissions – and to edit, approve, and publish them; and
  • doesn’t require a lot of complicated maintenance or programmer time to keep going.

If any of you lectōrēs fidēlissimī have good suggestions about CMS packages – or wiki engines, or anything else – that could serve as the backbone of Version Beta of Tres Columnae, please let me know! Or, for that matter, if you have any horror stories, please let us know about that, too. (The top contenders, if you’re fascinated by that sort of thing, are Drupal, Joomla, and MediaWiki (in no particular order), but we’re open to other suggestions, too. Feel free to gloss over that sentence if it’s meaningless to you!)

Regardless of our final decision about backend software, we have a lot of work to do between now and the Fall. But it’s really exciting to know that folks do want to be involved in the project on that type of scale. If you’re interested in a school-wide subscription, or know someone who might be, please let us know!

As we face important decisions about The Future, I’m glad I’ve chosen to feature the sequence of stories about Casina’s morbus this week. After all, everyone involved with Casina’s life has some decisions to make … especially Valerius, her dominus. I was interested to find, here at Google Books, an extensive preview of W.W. Buckland’s The Roman Law of Slavery; it seems that even as early as the reign of Claudius, slaves who were not treated for illness, but left to die on the island of Aesculapius, were automatically freed if they recovered … and that a master who did seek treatment for a sick slave could deduct the medical expenses from the slave’s peculium. In later stories, we’ll see how these factors and others affect Valerius’ and Caelia’s response to Casina’s sickness.

At the moment, though, we’ll pick up with this story, in which Valerius and Caelia have only just learned about Casina’s sickness … and they’re about to discover some other things they didn’t know about their favorite ancilla:

Valerius et Caelia ad cubiculum Casinae contendunt, ubi Milphiō pius et sollicitus nunc iam deōs precātur et ancillae vīnum offert. Casina tamen Milphiōnem haud agnōscit. iterum iterumque surgit et manūs extendit. iterum iterumque “ō mī infāns, nōnne mē quaeris?” rogat. iterum iterumque fessa et aegra in lectō resīdet vel ad pavīmentum lābitur. Valerius et Caelia extrā cubiculum haesitant et rem tōtam tacitī spectant. tandem Valerius “quid hoc est?” rogat. “num Casinae nostrae est īnfāns?” et Milphiō, “ō domine, īnfāns Casinae nōn vīvit, sed in urbe Pompēiīs insepultus nunc iam iacet, ā vēnālīciō necātus et disiectus. nōnne Casina ipsa mihi rem tōtam nārrāre solet ubi diēs Lemurālia adsunt?”

tum Caelia, “heus! rem intellegō!” exclāmat. “nōnne Casina saepe ē domō festīnat flētum, ubi līberī nostrī diēs nātālēs celebrant? et nōnne urbem Pompēiōs plōrāre solet? vae Casinae! et vae īnfantī sepultō! et vae nōbīs!”

et Valerius attonitus et territus, “edepol! ecastor! dī omnēs!” respondet, “fortasse Casina aegrotat, quod umbra īnfantis insepultī iniūriās suās ulcīscī vult! sine dubiō iste vēnālīcius impius nunc iam poenās scelerum luit! etiamsī dominus sum pius, fortasse lemur advenit nōs pūnītum! vae! heu! nōs oportet multa sacrificia offerre!”

subitō Casina oculōs aperit et “heus! quis clāmat?” fessa et languida rogat. omnēs ad lectum festīnant et “Casina? an nōs iam agnōscis?” sollicitī rogant. illa attonita, “domine! domina! Milphiō mī amīce!” respondet, “cūr hoc mē rogātis? nōnne semper vōs agnōscō?”

Milphiō attonitus Casinae rem tōtam nārrat. et Casina, “vae! heu!” ululat. “nōs haud decet rēs tālēs memoriā tenēre. mē oportet surgere et aquam trahere!” ancilla surgere cōnātur, sed frustrā! membra sua movēre haud potest!

Valerius, “Casina mea,” inquit, “tibi in hōc lectō manendum est! perīculōsum enim est nōbīs talia ōmina contemnere! mihi nunc ē domō exeundum est, quod mē decet augurem vel haruspicem quaerere.”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • As I mentioned above, I’d really love your feedback if you have experience, good or bad, with any of the software we’re considering for Version Beta.
  • Were you surprised by anything you learned about Roman laws regarding slavery?
  • What about Valerius’ and Caelia’s rections to Casina’s morbus?
  • And what about Casina’s own reaction? Why do you suppose she tries to minimize what’s happening to her?

Tune in next time, when we’ll address these questions and others … and when we’ll find out whether Valerius was successful in his quest for an augur or a haruspex. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

Casina ancilla, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we continue with our series of posts about the morbus novissimus that mysteriously afflicts Casina, Valerius’ and Caelia’s frequently-grumpy ancilla, shortly after she witnesses the horrible near-death of a servus who reminds her of her own brother in this story from Lectiō XIX of the Tres Columnae Project. Since Casina has also suffered the tragic loss of her own child, as we discovered in this story, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that she’s upset! And given the close connections between mind and body, it’s not surprising that her emotional distress would show up as physical symptoms! Perhaps such a claim would have been surprising 100 or even 200 years ago, when the post-Enlightenment worldview was fully dominant, and when “everyone” knew that there were clean, separate categories for things like mind and body – or, for that matter, for things like language and culture. Fortunately, in our post-modern 21st-century world, we’ve rediscovered that things are connected to each other … often in surprising ways! I just finished re-reading Daniel Pink’s amazing book, A Whole New Mind, and was struck once again by his point about synthesizing the emotional and the rational, the mind and the body, the logical and the intuitive. It also struck me that what “sophisticated and educated” Western culture forgot for a few hundred years and is now rediscovering was, of course, known all along to people that “sophisticated and educated” Western culture despised and marginalized. How ironic … and yet, how hopeful!

And that brings us back to Casina, who is about as despised and marginalized as anyone in Roman society could possibly be – she’s an enslaved woman. And yet, when she’s overcome with her mysterious morbus, we’ll find that her dominus doesn’t react in the “expected” way – with punishments, threats, torture, or death – as she may well have feared. Is it just that Valerius is unusually compassionate? Or does something else cause him to treat Casina better than most Romans would have expected? We’ll find out as we look at the next two stories in the sequence. First, though, Casina’s fellow servī have to discover how sick she is in this story, now available here at the Tres Columnae Version Alpha wiki site:

Milphiō et Gallicus ad cubiculum Casinae celeriter regrediuntur. Milphiō extrā cubiculum stat et “Casina, Casina mea, nōnne iam surgis?” rogat. Casina tamen nihil respondet. Milphiō solliitus cubiculum ingreditur et, “Casina, Casina mea, quid agis?” rogat. Casina tamen nihil respondet. ancilla in lectō immōta iacet. subitō oculōs aperit et “īnfāns, mī īnfāns!” exclāmat. Milphiō perterritus, “nōn īnfāns, sed Milphiō adsum, Casina mea! num aegrōtās?”

Casina subitō surgere cōnātur. “īnfāns, mī īnfāns, utrum mē ad tē vocās annōn? Casina adsum, māter tua – ō mī īnfāns, quaesō, ignōsce mihi!”

Gallicus perterritus, “num umbra adest ipsa? num lemur?” clāmat. “mihi exeundum est, quod … quod … quod mē oportet ientāculum dominō parāre!” et coquus ē cubiculō perterritus festīnat. per tōtam domum currit et “vae! heu! lemur adest ipse!” identidem clāmat. Milphiō tamen, quamquam perterritus et sollicitus est, in cubiculō manet. manūs ad caelum tollit et dīs omnibus precēs effundit.

There’s no doubt that something is seriously wrong with Casina, is there? In the language of contemporary psychology, perhaps we would diagnose her with post-traumatic stress disorder. As you might imagine, Valerius and Caelia are both surprised and terrified when they hear the news of Casina’s affliction in this story:

Valerius ē lectō attonitus surgit et “heus! quid est?” clāmat. Caelia quoque surgit et “vae! heu! quis clāmat?” attonita rogat. Valerius et Caelia ē cubiculīs ēgrediuntur et “nōnne Gallicus iterum sē vexat!” rogant et respondent. coquus enim per tōtam domum festīnat et clāmat, “vae! heu! umbrae et lemurēs mē petunt! vae! heu!” Valerius coquum clāmantem tandem prēnsat et “mēhercle!” exclāmat, “Gallice! quid clāmās? num umbrae? num lemurēs?”

Gallicus dominum suum amplectitur et “ō mī domine,” clāmat, “mī domine, umbrae et lemurēs, imāginēs quoque et dī Mānēs ipsae!” Caelia bracchium Gallicō quoque prēnsat et, “Gallice noster, num mediā nocte vīnum bibis?” rogat. Gallicus tamen, “ō domine, domina, haud ēbrius, haud īnsānus sum! quaesō, amābō vōs, mē audīte! hodiē enim māne, ut semper, Casinam in culīnā exspectō, quod illa aquam ē fonte pūblicō mihi trahere solet. Casina tamen nōn adest! ad cubiculum igitur festīnō illam excitātum – sed nihil respondet! sine dubiō Casina est mortua! sine dubiō omnēs Lemurēs cum umbrīs et imāginibus et dīs Mānibus ipsīs adveniunt mē pūnītum! vae mihi! vae vītae meae!” Gallicus perterritus lacrimīs et ululātibus sē trādit.

Valerius tamen, “Gallice, siste” clāmat, “dēsine ululāre! tē haud decet tamquam īnfantem vāgīre!” et coquus attonitus tacet. tum Valerius, “mī Gallice,” inquit, “quaesō, mihi rem tōtam nārrā – umbrās tamen cum ululātibus omitte!” Gallicus tandem sē colligit et rem tōtam nārrat.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

I realize it’s possible to go in many different directions in interpreting this story. We might choose to focus on

  • the psychological issues behind Casina’s illness;
  • Casina’s reactions to her dream about the īnfāns;
  • the responses of Casina’s fellow servī, especially poor Gallicus;
  • the responses of Valerius and Caelia;
  • the cultural and religious issues raised by the story;
  • potential issues of social class and gender; or
  • countless other possible issues raised by the stories.

Which ones would you want to focus on, and what would you want to say about them?  And can you imagine how it would feel to be any of these characters in this situation?

Tune in next time, when Valerius and Caelia observe Casina’s condition for themselves, and when we’ll take a closer look at their (rather unexpected) response. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.